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'Situation Critical': Former Ukrainian Minister Warns Of Tough Winter After Russian Infrastructure Strikes


A woman collects wood for heating from a destroyed school in the Izyum area, which was recently recaptured by Ukraine. Massive Russian missile strikes targeting the country’s civilian heating infrastructure means that many Ukrainians could be in for a cold winter this year.
A woman collects wood for heating from a destroyed school in the Izyum area, which was recently recaptured by Ukraine. Massive Russian missile strikes targeting the country’s civilian heating infrastructure means that many Ukrainians could be in for a cold winter this year.

Massive Russian missile and drone attacks since October 10 have damaged about 30 percent of Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure. Power stations, transformers, transmission networks, and more have been targeted and hit in the barrage.

Although Ukrainian Minister for Communities and Territorial Development Oleksiy Chernyshov insisted on October 13 that heating will be available as usual "as soon as the average daily temperature is below 8 degrees Celsius for three days," the government has urged citizens to minimize electricity consumption to help stabilize supplies.

Residents of some areas have been warned of possible scheduled blackouts as workers scramble to repair the damage. Ukraine has temporarily halted exports of electricity to the European Union, reversing a gesture intended to help allies cope with irregularities in the supply of natural gas from Russia.


"Electric heating plants in virtually every region of the country have been damaged," former Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov said in an interview with Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. "There has also been significant damage to high-voltage power lines and distribution networks."

"The situation is extremely difficult and critical," said Plachkov, who has worked in the energy sector for five decades, served as energy minister in 1999, and as fuel and energy minister in 2005-07.

Former Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov (file photo)
Former Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov (file photo)

Nonetheless, he said, the electrical network as a whole has continued functioning and will be fully restored in the coming weeks.

"It is easier to repair the distribution networks," he said. "The teams are at work."

Repairing high-voltage transformers is more of a problem, he added, because they taken up to six months to produce and the number of producers globally is quite small.

"For the most part, our transformers are from the Zaporizhzhya Transformer Factory," he said. "We are using our reserve supplies, but they are limited. We are talking about some expensive equipment, tens or hundreds of millions of hryvnyas (hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars). We are hoping for help from our partners in Eastern Europe…. Poland, Hungary, Romania."

'Hard Weeks And Months Ahead'

For the foreseeable future, the country will experience problems generating electricity.

"So there will be restrictions on the use of electricity," Plachkov said. "We need to conserve as much as possible in order to keep the grid running."

Ukrainians Steel Themselves For A Cold, Wartime Winter
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As winter approaches, problems with heating will increase. On October 11, the mayor of the western city of Lviv, Andriy Sadoviy called on everyone to "brace ourselves for hard times...perhaps the worst-ever period for our country."

"We are in for hard weeks and months ahead," Sadoviy said in a public address. "It is hard right now to predict what will happen tomorrow. We will do all we can to keep medical facilities operating."

Plachkov said that, "until [Russian forces] run out of missiles,” it will be impossible to predict when things will return to normal.

"All citizens of Ukraine living in cities must be prepared," he said. "They should find friends or relatives in the country in case there arises a need for them to relocate, to move their children or their elderly and wait things out there for a while."

Robert Coalson contributed to this report
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